AMHERST – When Advantage Communications opened its Amherst call centre last August it did so quietly.
A year after taking its first call, the centre celebrated its first anniversary with a barbecue for staff as it prepares to triple the size of its original workforce.
“The last year has been one of tremendous success for our Amherst centre. We couldn’t be happier,” company president and CEO Kent MacPhee said Wednesday. “We came in very low key and wanted to walk before we ran. It has been a win-win situation for us and our employees.”
Advantage Communications, based on Prince Edward Island, helped fill a void in the community that was created when TeleTech Holdings closed its Amherst customer support centre in December 2010 throwing more than 200 people out of work.
The company provides customer and technical support for EastLink.
Kris O’Brien, vice-president of operations, said the company has benefitted from having a skilled workforce readily available.
“We have been able to hire the best and brightest,” he said.
O’Brien said the company opened its Amherst operation with about 30 employees. The number has grown to 60 with plans to add another 30 in the coming months.
“We’re going to add another 32 workstations in the next 30 days and in the month beyond that we want to expand again,” he said. “It’s a very seasonable business. With students going back to school and people returning from vacations there are a lot of reconnections. The volume stays high from September to Christmas.”
Site manager Steve Harrison came to Access Communications from TeleTech. He said of the original 31 employees, 29 are still working for the company.
“We have an amazing group of people here,” Harrison said. “We often refer to ourselves as family. We were through a lot together at the other place and we have stuck together here.”
Harrison estimates he has several hundred resumes on file. Part of the reason, he said, is because people talk about their positive experiences working there.
David Dressler, director of customer care with EastLink, said his company is thrilled with how things have gone in Amherst.
“It’s a perfect partnership for us and it’s really good because it’s close to home for the Bragg family,” Dressler said. “This centre came at a time when we needed stability and it has provided that support to our customers across the country.”
While he doesn’t want to single out any of his operations, MacPhee said Amherst has become a very bright light for the company.
“I’m not allowed to have favourites but there’s something very special about this one,” he said. “With our Maritime-based client there’s a lot of history. Eastlink started here 41 years ago, so it’s very meaningful for that company as well.”
MacPhee said his company and Eastlink are two Maritime companies committed to creating jobs in rural communities across the region. He said it’s something EastLink’s customers appreciate.
“Our employees tell us all the time that customers are happy when they learn their calls are being answered in the Maritimes,” he said. “There’s a natural inheritance of hospitality and it’s more pronounced in the rural communities.”